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The button war : a tale of the Great War
Book
2018
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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

There are seven of them, Patryk reports: himself and six friends, all 11 or 12 years old; they aren't a gang, he continues, but more like a flock of wild goats. They live in a small Polish village in the year 1914. Jurek is their de facto leader, boasting (falsely) that he is a descendant of Boleslaw the Brave, the ancient king of Poland. The boys' lives change dramatically when an airplane appears and bombs their school, evidencing that war has come to the village. The occupying Russians flee in the face of a German advance. Meanwhile, another sort of war has come a button war. For at Jurek's instigation, the boys agree to steal buttons from the soldiers; the one with the best button will become king. But it's an increasingly dangerous game as, one by one, the boys are killed. Who will survive to become king? The award-winning Avi has turned in another solid performance, bringing history alive with a clever plot, a powerful, anti-war theme, and characters as memorable as his story.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2018 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

When World War I descends upon a tiny Polish village, seven boys launch their own deadly battle for the right to be crowned king of the land.While playing in the woods, 12-year-old narrator Patryk finds a button, but his friend Jurek claims that it belongs to him. The rusty button becomes the inspiration for Jurek's latest scheme. Whoever can obtain the best button can claim sovereignty over the village and rule over the others. Despite their apprehension at Jurek's fervency, they all agree to the terms. As the bombs fall and the troops arrive, the eponymous conflict begins. But Patryk soon finds that Jurek is willing to do whatever it takes to claim the prize. Stealing, espionage, and murder are all fair in war. While the message is clearthere are no winners in warthe story's lack of true heroism leaves readers with little hope for a better world. Fans of The Lord of the Flies and readers ready to plumb ambiguity will respond to the dark themes. Diversity is limited to nationality and class. German, Russian, Austrian, and British soldiers flood the town, and the boys, while all Polish, differ in standing. Jurek, an orphan, is one of the poorest in town, while the other boys are sons of artisans, teachers, and local politicians.Bleakly demonstrates that war, no matter its scale, is devastating. (Historical fiction. 10-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
Renowned, award-winning author Avi pens a stark, unflinching tale of ordinary boys living in wartime as tensions -- and desperations -- mount among them. <br> <br> Twelve-year-old Patryk knows little of the world beyond his tiny Polish village; the Russians have occupied the land for as long as anyone can remember, but otherwise life is unremarkable. Patryk and his friends entertain themselves by coming up with dares -- some more harmful than others -- until the Germans drop a bomb on the schoolhouse and the Great War comes crashing in. As control of the village falls from one nation to another, Jurek, the ringleader of these friends, devises the best dare yet: whichever boy steals the finest military button will be king. But as sneaking buttons from uniforms hanging to dry progresses to looting the bodies of dead soldiers -- and as Jurek's obsession with being king escalates -- Patryk begins to wonder whether their "button war" is still just a game. When devastation reaches their doorstep, the lines between the button war and the real war blur, especially for the increasingly callous Jurek. Master of historical fiction Avi delivers a fierce account of the boys of one war-torn village who are determined to prove themselves with a simple dare that spins disastrously out of control.
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